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PODS debates Tour sponsorship

By SCOTT HAMILTON
Senior Writer

PODS has until Dec. 31 to pick up a four-year extension to sponsor the PGA Tour’s annual stop in Tampa, Fla. Otherwise, the tournament could be looking for its third title sponsor in as many years following the 2008 event March 6-9 at Innisbrook Resort & Golf Club in Palm Harbor, Fla.

PODS, a Clearwater, Fla.-based moving and storage company, is obligated to sponsor next year’s tournament as part of a contract it signed last winter worth $39 million if it goes the full six-year term. PODS’ decision to sign an extension could be determined by a strategic plan scheduled to be submitted Dec. 14 by investment bank Morgan Stanley.

According to Paul Umberg, PODS’ senior vice president of strategic acquisitions, the company’s board has enlisted Morgan Stanley to explore various avenues to grow the business. Umberg said one of several possible scenarios could materialize, including a merger, a partnership deal with another company or even a buyout. He said PODS’ involvement with the Tour, as well as its relationship with Tour player Kirk Triplett, won’t be determined until then.

“The plan itself could include some people who may very well be interested in having us move (the tournament deal) forward through 2012,” Umberg said. “It could also include some people who may not, so we don't know. Anything is possible.”

Umberg said the initial deadline to pick up the extension was Sept. 30 before the date was pushed back by the Tour. He said the deadline could be extended again depending upon the results of the Morgan Stanley report.

PODS’ contract to sponsor the event was an 11th-hour deal and came during a precarious few months for tournament organizers. The deal was announced only six weeks before the PODS Championship was played, putting pressure on operators to brand the event and finalize other logistical matters. The 2007 tournament was played only 17 weeks following the 2006 event, after it was moved from its previous October slot to the spring.

“Did we learn something last year? You got it, we did learn something,” said PODS Championship tournament director Gerald Goodman. “One of the good things is if that scenario (PODS not signing the extension) happens, then we’ll be one of few tournaments looking (for a title sponsor after 2008).

“Obviously, we don’t want that to happen. PODS was good for us and Tampa Bay. The best thing we can do is just work hard and get ready for 2008.”

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Scott Hamilton is a Golfweek business writer. To reach him e-mail [email protected]

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